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Annika : Well, Are you going to play the role of my guardian angel or not?
Shivaay blinked again to see that she had walked in front. He picked up the pace and walked quietly besides her.
Something had happened to him. He was sure of it. Never had he been at a loss for words before. Something was wrong and Annika Mishra was the cause of his abnormal feelings now.
Shivaay (thinking) : What is happening to me?
Annika (exasperated) : Mr Oberoi?
Shivaay cursed inwardly and began walking towards her. They set off, walking side by side towards Mishra Nivas.
Shivaay (curiously) : Why did you come here tonight anyways?
Annika glared at him before rolling her eyes.
Annika : Didn’t I already tell you?
Shivaay : Well yes. But that doesn’t mean I believe you.
Annika : What is there not to believe?
Shivaay (dryly) : I came out to a non Elite pub to drink whiskey even though I have better whiskey in my own house isn’t unbelievable at all.
Annika : Of all the..
She stopped in her tracks and held Shivaay’s hand stopping him as well. He looked at her in surprise, then let out a stifled grunt as she poked him in the chest hard.
Annika : You, Mr Oberoi, are utterly arrogant and condescending, not to mention behaving like a nincompoop and…
Shivaay ( chuckling): Want to tell anymore big words, Miss Mishra?
Annika (glaring at him) : What if I want to?
Shivaay : Well, I would tell you that you should not be cursing me as I just helped save your reputation.
Annika : Mr Oberoi! Why on Earth do you feel the need to take care of my reputation?
Shivaay (his eyes haughty) : You are my sister’s role model. I can’t have you getting into trouble.
Annika : If you have such a big problem with me, Then why don’t you ask someone else to tutor your sister?
Shivaay’s lips settled into a thin line.
Shivaay : Swara trusts you and considers you her friend. I cannot have you abandon her now. There’s too much at stake and too little time.
Annika (quietly) : So you’re here to protect my reputation, Is it? Do you consider almost ravishing me in my house as part of the protection too?
Shivaay’s mind wandered to earlier that night when he almost kissed her in the corridor and he knew he didn’t want to stop with just kissing. He flushed darkly.
Shivaay : You’re absolutely right, Miss Mishra. I would like to apolo….
Annika (fiercely) : Don’t you dare apologise. I knew what I was doing and I am not a kid, who you can take advantage of….
She stopped and Shivaay nodded in silent assention. They continued walking towards her house.
Annika sighed inwardly as they began walking again. She had stopped mid rant. For she could not bear hearing that he regretted the moment they had shared.
Of course, she knew in her heart that it was true, that he had trapped her in that corridor to prove his superiority, to pass the time, or for some other unromantic reason. But, for the first time in her life, she had felt sought after. And she did not want him to ruin it with an apology.
They were silent the rest of the way. Annika was thankful, albeit a little disappointed. At least, He wouldn’t be able to dampen her high spirits now. Not that he had managed to even before, but she wanted to relive her success at the pub without him showing his disapproval.
She had succeeded in striking off another item in her list, and Annika was giddy with happiness. So much so that she began crossing the street to reach her home. However, before her first step could touch the road, A strong hand caught hold of her and pulled her back hard.
Dazed, Annika found herself staring straight into Shivaay’s angry gaze. But she couldn’t focus on that. Not when his lips were so close.
Shivaay spoke, his voice conveying an emotion that she couldn’t recognise. Probably repressed fury, Annika thought.
Shivaay : You could have been killed, infuriating woman.
Annika (blinking) : Because I stepped on the road? That’s not likely.
Shivaay glared at her, then righted her so that she could see the road. Annika’s eyes widened. Shivaay was telling the truth. There was a manhole at the edge of the road that had been opened a few days earlier and she had forgotten all about it. If Shivaay hadn’t stopped her, She would have gone down the hole and God only knew how deep the pit actually was.
Annika : Oh!
Shivaay : I see you understand. Who the hell left this open anyways? People walk here everyday. This is an Elite neighbourhood.
Annika (whispering) : Shivaay! Calm down. You’ll make everyone look outside. The Zarra family had some issues with the sewage and so they left it open for a few days. Some work is going on and I completely forgot about that.
Shivaay looked at her incredulously but shut his mouth and they crossed the street avoiding the pothole.
Annika (whispering) : Thank you, Mr Oberoi. I am glad that you saved me, even if I didn’t show it.
Shivaay : No, Miss Mishra. This is not right.
Annika (surprised) : What isn’t?
Shivaay : You already called me by my given name. So, You can’t go back and call me Mr Oberoi anymore. Shivaay is fine.
Annika : Then you may call me Annika.
She smiled shyly at him and he responded with a grin in return.
Shivaay : So Annika, Why did you ask me to kiss you?
Annika stumbled and nearly tripped but Shivaay caught her. She looked to the side and saw that they had reached the back door of her house. She panicked and wondered what she could do.
Shivaay : Tell me, Annika! Why me of all people?
He moved one step towards her and she moved back.
Annika : What are you doing?
Shivaay moved another step and Annika moved back again wondering what he was upto. Shivaay had a certain glint in his eye that she couldn’t quite identify.
Annika : Shivaay?
Shivaay : Why me, Annika?
Her back touched the wall and Annika arched her neck as Shivaay towered over her. He slowly drew back the veil that covered her face.
Annika (whispering) : Someone will see.
Shivaay : No.
He bent down, his cheek touching hers. She closed her eyes at his touch.
Shivaay (whispering in her ear) : Why, Annika? Why me?
Annika knew he would not let her go unless she answered. He was tenacious to the point of stubbornness. So she moved a bit to the right though the loss of his touch hurt. She took a deep breath and looked into his intense eyes.
Annika : I chose you because you seemed the best person.
Shivaay raised an eyebrow in question.
Annika : Your reputation precedes you, Mr Oberoi. Surely you know that. That’s why you wanted me to take care of Swara, Didn’t you?
Shivaay : Not at all. I wanted Swara to be attached to you because I don’t have a reputation. Our entire family doesn’t. We’re irreparable, Especially me.
Annika’s eyes widened. How could he think so less of himself? He may not be perfect, but he was a man, just like the others. A man she loved no less.
Shivaay’s (eyes narrowing) : Don’t do that.
Annika (frowning) : Do what?
But he was looking at the street and he turned to her aghast.
Shivaay : This is your house, Annika.
Annika : Well yes.
She was confused. He kept shifting from topic to topic and she was completely drained, what with the engagement earlier and then the pub and the conversation with him that frankly seemed to be similar to japanese whisper where no one understood the other.
Shivaay (demandind) : We’re standing right outside your house. Aren’t you worried that someone might see you?
Annika looked to the street and worried her lip in thought. Shivaay was right as usual, Damn him. She should not have been so careless. She had to go in, but her insatiable curiosity and desire wouldn’t let her. She didn’t want to leave him and go back to the baneless existence she was living.
So she took his hand and led him to the nearby side alley.
Annika : We can talk here.
Shivaay : Talk? About what?
Annika : Well, First you tell me what you meant by don’t do that. You said that to me.
Shivaay : I meant what I said. Don’t do that. Don’t romanticise me or my life. You’ll be disappointed and frankly, it’ll mean nothing.
Annika blinked, but found that she had no words to say. What reply could she give? That he was wrong… That she loved him? She remained silent until she could bear it no longer and then spoke.
Annika : You said you wanted Swara to be happy. I guess that means that she will marry the man she loves?
Shivaay : What nonsense. Why will she ever love someone? Love does not bode well for the Oberoi family. I do not wish it upon any of us.
Annika (shocked) : How can you believe that?
Shivaay (shrugging nonchalantly) : What else would I believe? My mother left a man who loved her and her twin sons to go marry another man only to leave him as well. Probably she’s left more broken hearts around the world as well. My father neglected his sons and began drinking because the woman he loved left him. Love brings only despair and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, let alone my sister.
Annika thought of remaining silent. The old Annika would have. She wouldn’t have attempted to talk to a glowering Shivaay. But she wasn’t that woman anymore. She was different now. She was more.
Annika : So you don’t believe in love? Or…
Shivaay : Love is merely an excuse to act without considering the consequences. It rarely brings good and even if it does, It’s for a very short while.
Annika (shaking her head) : No, You’re wrong.
Shivaay : Ofcourse you would say that. You probably adore the notion of love, Don’t you? Fairy tale ending and all that?
Annika : There’s no need to be disdainful.
Shivaay : I’m sorry. But if you have such a strong opinion, Go on then. Teach me about the truth of love.
She was immediately nervous. No matter how academically he seemed to be able to discuss it, one’s views on love were rather…well…personal. She attempted a scholarly tone.
Annika : Well. I don’t believe that love makes everything perfect or that it is the ultimate need in life, but I believe in love matches. I would have to. I am the product of one. And, if that isn’t enough, Tonight would have been at least slightly convincing. My sister and Om have eyes only for each other.
Shivaay : Love doesn’t mean attraction.
Annika : What they have isn’t mere attraction.
The words faded into silence, and he watched her intently for a long moment before leaning in, stopping mere inches from her.
Shivaay (whispering) : There’s nothing mere or simple about attraction.
She opened her mouth to respond, but he placed his palm on her cheek and she lost her voice. He was so close and was getting closer by the second.
Shivaay : Let me show you how attraction can be.
The words were deep and velvety, the sound of temptation. His lips were nearly on hers, she could feel their movement as he spoke, barely brushing against her.
He waited, hovering just above her, for her to respond. She was consumed with an unbearable need to touch him. She tried to speak, but no words came. She couldn’t form thoughts. He had invaded her senses, leaving her with no other choice but to close the distance between them.
The moment their lips touched, Shivaay took over, his arms coming around her and dragging her further closer to afford him better access to her. This kiss was vastly different than their first one—it was heavier, more intense, less careful. This kiss was a force of nature.
Annika moaned as his hand ran up the side of her neck, ruffling her hair, tilting her head to better align their mouths.
Annika : Shivaay!
A ghost of a smile crossed his lips.
Shivaay : You’re the very personification of passion, Annika Mishra.
Her only response was to pull his mouth back on hers. They kissed long and hard and emerged at last to take a couple of deep breaths.
Shivaay : That was attraction, Annika. Passion and temptation rolled into one magnificent moment.
Annika’s insides lurched. As magnificent as the was, it didn’t create even a small dent in him. How could he be so unaffected whereas she… She was swirling with emotions.
Annika : I had better go back. It’s late. Good night, Mr Oberoi.
Shivaay (sighing) : I see we’re back to Mr Oberoi.
Annika looked at him but didn’t say anything else as she ran to back door, opened it quietly and let herself inside and she knew that Shivaay was there waiting outside, waiting for her to reach safety before he set home himself.
Even that small act of care and kindness tugged at her heart and she sighed.
How was she ever going to get the man who spurned love like it was a living hell?